The bell rang and all my little ones rushed in hanging up their backpacks, ordering their lunches, clattering their chairs down, before settling in on the rug for our morning meeting. We talked about the day ahead and one of my little guys raised his hand. He is Mr. Personality, always quick with a laugh, eager to please, and enough energy to power the sun.
But at that particular moment, he sat still, hand raised to say something important.
“Mrs. McCauley, I have a comment to tell the class.”
“Okay, go ahead.” I smiled.
Then Mr. Personality looked around the classroom, leaned forward and said “I think I have a superpower.”
I could feel my smile turning into a giggle, but when I saw the earnest look on his face, I choked my laugh back down and put on my serious face. The rest of the class sat listening, some of them with their heads cocked to the side, others nodding.
“What superpower do you think you have?” I asked.
“When I hear sounds, I know what they mean.” He sat up on his knees.
“What do you mean?” I rubbed my chin and nodded, trying to take his claim under serious consideration.
“When I hear sounds or music without words, I know what the music is trying to say.” His eyes sparkled.
“That is a pretty special ability.”
“I know. I listened to music without words in the car this morning. And I just knew what it was saying.”
“Well, I think you’ll have to see if your superpower works at school, too. Be sure to let us know.” Then Mr. Personality’s best friend raised his hand, and I called on him, hoping we could get back to the tasks of the day.
No such luck.
“Mrs. McCauley, I think I have a superpower, too. I’m super strong.” He flexed his muscles.
“Yeah.” chimed Mr. Personality, “He is really strong. He pulled me all the way down the hallway!”
“You what?!?” I gaped at my little strong man.
“Don’t worry, he didn’t hurt me. That’s how strong he is. He pulled me down the hallway and I didn’t even feel it.” Mr. Personality grinned. “It was awesome!”
Then the carpet erupted in a frenzy of my little ones telling each other all about the super powers they are sure, absolutely sure, they possess. I listened to them chatter for a few seconds and then calmed them down to address this very important issue of superpowers.
I looked at their shiny faces all staring up at me with pure innocence. And I couldn’t bear to squelch their enthusiasm. They were so filled with magic. And I don’t know about you, but I could use a little more magic in my life.
“Okay. ” I started. “If you think you have a superpower, like being super strong or understanding instrumental music, then there’s one thing you need to keep in mind.” I paused for dramatic effect.
Oh, you’d better believe I had their attention now.
“What, Mrs. McCauley, what?” Mr. Personality could barely stand it.
I leaned in close and lowered my voice. “If you think you have superpowers, then you have the responsibility to find ways to use your superpowers for good.”
“And not for evil! Because that would make you a villain.” Strong Man asserted.
“Exactly. So today look for opportunities to use your superpowers for good, okay?”
“Okay.” Twenty-six heads nodded back at me.
After recess Strong Man reported back to the class that he’d helped pick up three different kids who had fallen on the playground.
“You didn’t knock them down first, right?” I asked.
“No, Mrs. McCauley. That wouldn’t count.” He shook his head, looking at me like I was ridiculous for even asking someone with super strength such a thing.
“I was just checking. Thanks for being so helpful.”
Later that day, my little ones hunkered down and wrote love poems to special people in their families, I checked in on Mr. Personality.
“I’m writing one for my Granddad.”
“Do you want to read it to me?” I asked.
“It’s not finished, but I’ll read the start.” He cleared his throat. I crouched down by his desk to take a good listen. He picked up his paper and began. ‘Do you hear me? I love you to the stars and back.’
“Ooooh, that’s a good start. But I’m not sure I understand the first line. Can you explain it to me?”
“My granddad died last year and I want to know if he can still hear me.”
“Oh.” I nodded.
“Do you think he can still hear me in Heaven?”
“Yes, I think he can.” I looked Mr. Personality in the eye.
“But there’s just one problem, Mrs. McCauley, when I finish my poem, how am I going to get it to him?”
“I don’t know. We’ll have to think about how to solve that one.”
The next morning, Mr. Personality came into the classroom early. I was finishing up a few things, popping around the room making sure everything was ready for the day.
“Mrs. McCauley, I think I figured it out.” He hung his backpack up and turned toward me.
“Figured what out?” I asked, buzzing around the room, dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
“I think I figured out how to get my letter to Granddad.”
I stopped and turned toward him. “Really? Well, lay it on me.”
“I just have to find someone who’s superpower is flying. Then they can fly it up to Heaven for me.”
“That is an excellent plan.” I leaned against a table.
“Can you help me find someone?” He leaned against the table next to me.
“That might be pretty hard, but I’ll do my best.” I put my arm around him and gave him a squeeze. He scooted out the back door for morning recess, leaving me alone in the classroom with my thoughts.
I thought about Mr. Personality and wondered if he really does hear music differently than you and I. I thought about Strong Man, who was no doubt out at recess right that very second looking for people to help. And I thought maybe they’re not so far off in thinking they have superpowers.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got a couple of superpowers myself. I can eat burritos and never tire of them. I can ride my bike pretty far. Okay, those ones are more like mediocre powers. On a good day I can string words together and sometimes even make them make sense. I’m also pretty skilled at convincing people to donate money to help fight the supervillain, cancer.
And while I’m proud of my ability to fight cancer and more proud than I should be over my ability to consume burritos, I’m left wishing I had the ability to fly Mr. Personality’s poem to his granddad in Heaven. I’m desperately trying to come up with a way to make that poem fly because Mr. Personality has me believing that magical things are possible.
And that may just be his greatest superpower.
6 thoughts on “Superpowers”
“I love you to the stars and back” is quite a profound bit of wordage for a small child, I think. Near the end of my 34 years (that is too long for anyone to stay in the classroom) I had lost all ability to be indulgent, caring or even interested in the real thoughts and doings of the teenagers. When you are at the tail end of burnout it becomes an assembly line job, not teaching. You have the most important superpower a teacher can own. They power to have a genuine interest and to not be merely indulgent, but because you truly are interested in them. When that evaporates, as it did in me, it’s time to go.
A profound bit of wordage for a little guy indeed. I’d read “Guess How Much I Love You” to my class and it ends with the line “I love you to the moon and back.” So when it came time to write, there were a lot of lines like “I love you over the mountains and back.” or another favorite “I love you to Jupiter and back.” It just goes to show that Natalie Goldberg was right when she said “If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.” And I have the pleasure of helping read good books to my little ones.
Also, I think there’s wisdom in knowing when it’s time to move on. I hope when that time comes for me, I’ll be able to recognize it and leave the classroom gracefully.
Amazing. Simply amazing.
Thanks, Carli. Sometimes the stories just write themselves, don’t they?
I think you have the superpower of inspiring those children, and another to share their wonderful story. . . and while those mass releases of helium balloons are perhaps environmentally wrong, maybe one little balloons, sent to that one grandfather, would be okay . . . or a small kite . . .
Thanks, Mary. That’s a high compliment from a storyteller like you. I’ve been doing some research and latex balloons are biodegradable. So now my little guy just has to finish his poem and I’ve got to get my hands on some helium.